Wholewheat Crusty Bread

I love markets. And I don't mean the economy sort of market or the supermarket market. I mean the traditional market market. I love the slippery floors, the smell of fresh fish and seafood, hunks of meat displayed behind cloudy glass panels, baskets and carts of fresh fruit and vegetables, some dull and placid, others colourful and vibrant. I love the busy patter of footsteps in the morning, the voices of market sellers and market goers going about their day, and the messy, confusing market like a maze where you can just lose yourself in the pleasure of food or really just physically get lost, which happens, I admit. (I love everything, save for the gamey smell of fresh goat and mutton.) 

There's something about the busyness and messiness of markets like these that just make me want to go back. I love the traditional local markets I went to in Taiwan last year- people just displaying their own collection of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood, and also nuts, seeds, dried fish and condiments. And tofu, too. And I remember the huge stall in the market churning out fresh bao in all shapes and sizes, the machine noisily mixing the delicate dough behind as the workers masterfully shape and steam the buns. I remember seeing machines some grinding fresh sesame seeds and almonds into a fine powder, others pressing flaxseeds and sesame seeds into oil. 

But of course, the markets here at home are great too. I love visiting the spice shops, because I love spices- the smell of them, the look of them, the taste of them. Spices add so much flavour and depth with so little effort, and I'd like to think that you can really transform something simple into something really special with the clever use of some spices- a little tumeric here, paprika there, a pop of mustard seeds, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, a sprinkling of curry leaves, and a touch of saffron. And then there's the fresh, homemade curry pastes and chillis, that always make cooking so much more fun. I love the shops that help you to make fresh shredded coconut- numbers which are dwindling day by day- and everytime I walk by I'm always tempted to buy a bagful to make some kuehs, which I never end up doing. 

I love how markets are starting to change - I've seen markets sell kale, a vegetable once unknown to so many, the little spicy hot peppers that come in red, yellow, orange and green, fresh Italian sweet basil and dill and rosemary and thyme. Then there's asparagus, sweet vine-ripened tomatoes, and butternut squash, which are all my favourites. 

I'm reading a book now- "Real Food" by Susan Planck. I remember grabbing it off the "new release" shelves when I first stepped into the library. It taught me that real food isn't about eating goji berries, bee pollen and vitamin C tablets, as Jamie's Superfood book has taught me. It's about eating real food, food that comes from our land, our soil, our pastures. Food that isn't made in factories and made with chemicals and flavourings and additives. It's about real stuff: real butter, real fruits and vegetables, real meat and fish. It's not about being a vegan or following a paleo diet- it's about eating the good stuff, or the better stuff, and eating less of what is being processed. Her book has taught me not to be afraid of butter and beef and cream, but to be wary of hydrogenated vegetable oils, grain fed beef, and processed ingredients. Which I have to say, do make sense. I've learnt that eating food that makes you feel happy makes your body feel happy too, and it's okay to splurge and binge on sweet treats once in a while as we all do. My baking (and eating) therapy comes in the form of caramel stuffed chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter brownies. Though of course, it is important to eat them in moderation. 

I look to the market for my inspiration- fresh food, local ingredients, delicious stuff. There is where the real food lies.

Wholewheat crusty bread 

200g wholewheat flour 
300g strong white flour 
7g dry instant yeast 
1 1/2 tsp salt 
310ml water 
2 tbsp olive oil 

Combine ingredients, let sit for 20 minutes.
Knead 10-15 min till elastic and passes the window pane test. Let rise for about 1h at room temp or refrigerated overnight, till doubled in size. 
Shape into a loaf and rise another 1hour. 
Score, bake at 220 degrees Celsius for 15 min, 190 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.  

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